Sometimes the line between what you can and cannot say in Scottish football can become blurred.
Where does acceptable banter between so-called “bitter” rivals overstep the mark and become offensive? Sometimes it can be hard to tell.
But no-one should be under any illusions that what Leigh Griffiths said on social media site Twitter was wrong – and he deserves to be punished for it.
It is to Hibs’ great credit that they took such prompt and decisive action by immediately disciplining the player.
We should acknowledge too that Griffiths has recognised his mistake and apologised.
It is true that he puts up with plenty of abuse himself both on and off the pitch, more than most footballers in fact – partly because his outstanding goalscoring skills mark him out in the eyes of opposition fans. And the Hibs striker is just a young man, aged 22, who has not yet had the life experience of, for instance, the Manchester United star and frequent tweeter Rio Ferdinand.
Yes, he is handsomely paid to do his job, but he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t react in some way from time to time. It is the nature of his reaction on this occassion which has understandably caused widespread offence.
Making a derogatory reference to someone else’s race is simply wrong. The implication of what he said – whether or not it is what he intended to imply – is that someone with an Asian name does not belong in Scotland. Every right-minded person knows that is completely unacceptable.
Given the strong response from the club, it would be reasonable now to hope that the whole incident can be put firmly behind us.
Thankfully, racism is not a widespread problem at the city’s football grounds. That is down to the decency of the vast majority of fans and to the efforts of Hibs and Hearts over the years.
Both clubs have been praised in the past by UEFA, the sport’s ruling European body, for their work to combat discrimination in all its forms. Yesterday’s events will do nothing to derail that commitment.